May 2020 - How are you coping, staying at home?

Welcome to our first fully online edition of Grapevine. For the duration of the lockdown, and because we can't send people out to deliver printed copies, we shall be putting everything on our website instead, and we shall keep doing this until we are released once more.

How are you coping? How are you managing with restricted movements, or working from home, or online shopping, or very limited social contacts? Or perhaps you are not coping at all. Is the house and garden beginning to feel like a prison? In these moments I remind myself that I'm not a single parent with three small children on the 12th floor of a block of flats – and then I feel better!

Where do you go to when you close your eyes? I know that some people are more visual than others at this, more 'imaginative', but, sitting in a comfortable chair, or lying in the darkness, close your eyes and go travelling. Escape the bonds of this virus for a moment and take yourself on a journey to places you once visited. With a bit of practice, details will start to return that you never realised had been downloaded onto the hard drive of your brain! A number of times recently, in the absence of sleep, I have tried to see how far along the Lyke Wake Walk I can go without parting from my pillow, or explore my home village of Quorn in Leicestershire, or my cycle commute along the canal-sides of Birmingham from 20 years ago (surprisingly peaceful and verdant).

Let me tell you one of my current secret pleasures (apart from Breaking Bad and Ozark, both available on Netflix): I open my laptop, go onto Google Earth, drop down into the Street View, and tour various islands. Go on, give it a go. So far I have made extensive visits to the Orkney Islands, Shetland Isles, and am currently holidaying in the Faroe Islands. With this amazing technology I can literally drive along clifftops and through remote villages, admiring lakes, lives and lovely views. All without leaving the sofa.

I should have noticed earlier, but during those times in my life when I have been most restricted, I have always turned to travelogues and stories of adventure, and escaped through the journeys of others. When I am most uncomfortable about being 'here', wherever that might be, my mind turns to all sorts of distant places by way of escape and I dream of being 'there'. Sometimes this is the only thing we can do, the only way to cope or to stay sane – escapism through the mind or through the telly. However, it was the Bishop of Geneva, Saint Francis de Sales (1567-1622) who is credited with the quote, “bloom where you are planted.” So simple, and yet so much harder to humanly achieve. Yes, there is wisdom in the ancients, and in those communities that have prized stability, to be static, being rooted to the spot, who have chosen to bloom where they have been planted.

Many of us would never have opted to be isolated, but there is much to learn from those who have chosen this way of life, to live in the 'here and now' (the hic et nunc of the Carthusian monks), to be free whilst going nowhere. In these difficult times, perhaps we can find new ways of flourishing without escaping, a richness in the stillness, and freedom within our four walls. To enter most deeply into the roots of our current experience and drawing on the riches we might find therein.

Nick Bird

Your Rector

This letter from Revd Nick Bird appeared in the May 2020 issue of The Grapevine